Contest Finale Draws Near

Jan 20 2011

Get your votes in for the Photo Contest!

Keep the votes coming until 9:00pm PST on Friday, January 21st.  (For those of you fabulous folks in the Netherlands, that’s 6:00am on Saturday, January 22nd… does that mean you have an edge with more time? ;))

If you’re a contender, make sure you’re co-opting your friends and stuffing the ballot box.  It’s fun seeing new commentors on here.  (Quick question: Why is my spell-check correcting commentor?  Should you be commentators?  Really?  I like commentor.  I’m sticking with that.)

I’m surprised by the number of you responding via e-mail to  I thought there’d be more blog commentors than e-mailers.  Shows what I know!

I’ll tell you this… at this point, I’ve got votes all over the map, and it’s anyone’s game.

Good luck!


Dog Breath

Jan 20 2011

Totally gross post here.  Consider this fair warning.


I’ve heard of dog breath, but…

Today Cael asked me if all dogs’ penises smell bad.

Me: Why do you think dogs’ penises smell bad, Cael?

Cael: Our dog’s penis smells bad.

I don’t want to know.

I really, really don’t.

I think I’ll just go apologize to our dog, and we’ll move on.

They’re Here: Photo Contest Contenders!

Jan 18 2011

Thank you, thank you for sending your vacation photos.

I had a fabulous time viewing them and reading your stories.

This excerpt from Carina reminds me of SO many of our family vacations it made me giggle all the way through:

It was time to make a decision which two (seriously, only two???) pictures were most suitable of telling the story of our ‘roadtrip of a lifetime’… Was it going to be a picture of the French sea gull who harassed us right before entering the ferry to England? Or maybe one of the 50 pictures of my kids glued to a British ‘telly’ (yes, they are seriously addicted, is there a 12-step programme for that?), Or maybe a picture of us sitting in a hospital awaiting the doctor’s verdict on Roos’ weird rash (which turned out to be scarlet fever), oh wait, I didn’t take any pictures then because I was just too freakin’ worried!…  Or a picture of Hein, our baby, who kept massaging his gums with his tongue, because (as we found out halfway through our trip) he was having his first tooth (which was also why he didn’t want his pacifier anymore AND kept crying all of the night, every night…) Decisions, decisions, decisions…

I feel your pain, Carina!

  • I’ve had to find a pediatrician in Vietnam to examine my non-pooping baby.  (Turns out, when they don’t poop for a week straight you find yourself really, really wanting them to.)
  • I’ve begged my husband to pee on our daughter when she got a hideous jellyfish sting in Mexico.  (He wouldn’t, by the way, so I made our son do it.  “Pee on your sister!  I am NOT kidding!  Do it right now!”  That boy can perform under pressure.)
  • I was so worried about having a screaming baby in an airplane on descent that I caught myself repeatedly whispering “you suck, baby — you suck, baby — you suck, baby” hoping to encourage ear-popping pacifier action.  Turns out, your seatmates think you’re deranged when you rock and whisper “you suck” to your child.

After viewing the memorable vacation pics below, please vote for your favorite in the comments section.  Or, if you’re anxious to keep your vote confidential (what if you don’t want to vote for your friend?), feel free to send your vote to me at  I’ll tabulate the votes and announce the winners this Friday, January 21st.

Here are the contenders for our contest:

1.  Wind Ferry, submitted by Carina.


Carina writes: Here you see my and my kids on the ferry from Calais (France) to Brighton (England). We almost got blown away but we had to take a picture up on the deck of course! As you can see I put the youngest in the sling for safekeeping and the eldest two in matching brightly coloured orange shirts so I wouldn't risk losing any of them (cause I just don't trust them I guess 😉 Do I hear 'overprotective mom'? Yes, guilty as charged, but it freaked me out a bit, the boat ride...

2.  Beach Kids, submitted by Sally:

Karate Kid


Walk Like a (Peaceful?) Egyptian

3.  Ireland’s Next Top Model, by Sarah:

Sarah writes: This is what happens when your husband grows luscious, flowing locks. This is Bubba posing for Ireland's Next Top Model during our vaca there this past August. He made the locals stare, though he would say it's because they were jealous. I'm not so sure.

4.  One of These Kids Is Not Like The Others, by Evie:


Evie writes: My inlaws lakehouse. We go every summer for a month and a bunch of our friends meet us. One day during the week we hold pajama swimming morning. This is the picture I took before they jumped in. All the parents were super excited about this 'great' photo until we noticed Joseph.

5. Me and My Men, by Sally:


Sally writes: Me and my Zulu men 1997ish

6.  Family iChristmas, by Evie:


Evie writes: This is my brood attempting to take a Christmas card picture. Yes, they are huddled around my iPhone. Yes, I used it.

7.  The Giant’s Shoe, by Carina:


Carina writes: Koen & Roos sunbathing on 'The Giant's Boot' ('laars' in Dutch). We visited Giant's Causeway on the Northern Irish coast with our friends. At Giant's Causeway there are many rock formations and the legend goes that the giant Finn MacCool had something to do with it (which is of course a great story to tell a 5 and 3 year-old!) and this rock they're laying on here is supposed to be the giant's boot! And what better way to enjoy a big rock then to climb on top of it and catch some rays of Irish sunshine? 🙂

Now that you’ve viewed them, make sure you vote for your favorite in the comments section or by email to  I’ll tabulate the votes and announce the winners this Friday.

Good luck!


Freshly Squeezed

Jan 17 2011

When we took Abby (12) to her birth country of Vietnam two years ago, I introduced her to Vietnamese coffee.

Vietnamese coffee is thick, potent, and laced with sweetened condensed milk.  It’s a hit of caffeine and sugar that’ll strip the enamel off your teeth and make the dead sit up and bark — all in one fell swoop.

It’ll even allow a 10 year old kid to keep moving all day in a time zone opposite her own.

I say this by way of confession, not self-congratulation.  In 7th grade, my dorm father told me that drinking coffee would make my knees turn black.  I don’t know if that was some kind of Italian saying (he also insisted we never cut our spaghetti noodles) or if he was just weird.  Regardless, he made me believe to the depth of my being that feeding coffee to a child is wrong.

My life is full of neverthelesses.

Nevertheless, Abby picked up the coffee habit well and truly.

On every trip, we seem to pick up a few more bad habits.

Like my habit in Canada, where I’m always sure to buy a couple bottles of Tylenol with codeine before my return trip to the States.  Hey, it’s legal.  And wonderful.  And although they say there’s not enough codeine to make much of a pain-relief difference, this is one of those instances when I actually believe it’s the thought that counts.  I think it works, therefore it does.

For your information, I have not fed Tylenol with codeine to my kids no matter how many times I’ve been tempted by the sleep-inducing side effect.  Now I am congratulating myself.  Yay, me!

Sure, I have low standards.  Standards you could probably trip over.  But they’re there for the tripping, right?  I’m going with the theory that some standards are better than none.

Katee (15) has her permit to learn to drive.  Her real parents insist on teaching her themselves without my help.  Something about needing to be responsible for their own child while she’s maneuvering a lethal weapon.  (Blah blah blah).  On this trip, I taught her to drive while talking on a cell phone:

OK.  Maybe her parents have a point.

Also in the bad habits department, we let our Meat Eater (aka, Ian) order the world’s largest chicken nugget.

He threw up a few hours later.

Some people say, quit while you’re ahead.

I say, squeeze every little, tiny bit of fun out of every vacation and when you’re an empty husk with nothing left to give then go home.

Consider the fun squeezed:

The absolute best kind of vacation is the one where you can’t wait to go and then, when it’s over, you can’t wait to come home.

We just had the best kind of vacation.

I am thrilled to be home.

Our little ones are tucked safely in bed.

Visions of Buzz Lightyear dance in their head.

It’s finally time to soak in the tub, massage my feet and find that bottle of Canadian Tylenol.  (You’re surprised I wasn’t on drugs the whole time, aren’t you?)

Before I go, though, thanks for coming along on this trip.  I’m grateful for your kindness in reading and commenting.

And a special thanks to the behind-the-scenes crew who made the trip possible:

  • My folks, who watched 4 kids at various times, provided airport shuttle service, and learned that Aden is the Boss of the McDonalds Playland (and everywhere else — the sooner you learn, the easier it is on everyone)
  • Greg’s folks, who watched 3 kids at various times and learned to check first to make sure the McDonalds Happy Meal Toy is not a personal voice amplification device
  • My cousin, who heard my cry for help and provided emergency science tutoring for a desperate middle schooler
  • Katee’s folks, who watched 1 kid and who also said we weren’t crazy for doing this (they lie on demand which is why they’re such good friends)

Sending love to you all and best wishes for a good night’s sleep (I can think of no higher blessing),



Jan 15 2011

The problem with big kids is that they can read.

Oh, sure.  Tell me that’s a good thing.  Tell me that literacy is important.  Tell me it’s a bedrock of society.

Then take my big kids to Disneyland with signs abounding.



Ice Cream!

Add in my daughter’s spiritual gift of manipulation,

and the fact that I regularly cave under pressure,

and the end result is that this trip is going to cost me a touch more than my little kids’ trip.  Both in terms of money and in terms of my middle.

Thing is, when I cave,

my kids are smart and positively reinforce my negative behavior by snuggling up and willingly taking smiling photos with me.

What’s a mom to do?

I say, ice cream bars all around!

Sweet Sixteen

Jan 14 2011

I’ve been keeping a secret from you.

I have a sixth child.

Technically, she has other parents and doesn’t live with me, and I’m not legally responsible for her in any way.  But I don’t think that should matter when you have a child of the heart, do you?

Katee (15) is my daughter Abby’s (12) best friend.

Abby was 9 weeks old when we brought her home from Vietnam.  Katee was 3 years old.

Katee’s mom insisted Abby and Katee would be best friends.

I knew they wouldn’t, contending that a three year age gap to children might as well be twenty.  It’s insurmountable.  Impossible to form a friendship, much less a best friendship when children are that far apart.

Katee’s mom used her Jedi mind powers.  And she’s right a lot in general.  It’s irritating.  I’m not sure why we’re such good friends.  The mysteries of life, right?

So Abby and Katee are best friends and have been inseparable from the time Toddler Katee jumped over Infant Abby’s head and Katee’s mom freaked out and told her to never, ever jump over a baby.  (You’d think she could’ve just used those Jedi mind powers to float Katee over the baby, but what do I know about the Force?)

Long story short (I know — too late), Katee’s my sixth and eldest child.  We brought her along on our big kids’ trip this weekend.

Now when you see pictures of Katee and I mention my three big kids, you’ll know what in the world I’m talkin’ about.


Once again, the flying fairies were with us.  We made our flight with no mishaps, so my big kids get their chance to visit the Mouse.  Ian (11) still can’t believe it, even though he’s asleep next to me after our first day at Disneyland.

I mean, Ian really can’t believe it.  All week long, while we traveled with our little ones, Ian stayed with my parents.  We told everyone, including Ian, that we were going on vacation this weekend with the big kids, but we asked all the grown-ups not to reveal our intended destination lest we fail to make our stand-by flights or were rerouted elsewhere.  They diligently followed our instructions.  Especially my dad, who maintained all week that Greg and I were taking the big kids to a jam factory.

Here are the big kids sitting outside the Disneyland train station:

Do you see that look on Ian’s face?  Yeah – that’s not squinting into the sun.  That’s Ian reflecting on my dad’s parting comment that he strongly prefers marmalade as a gift.

Now we’re all referring to Disneyland as the Jam Factory, which isn’t helping but is amusing.

Throughout the park this evening, Ian kept shaking his head and saying, “This isn’t the jam factory.  This looks like Disneyland.”  Truthfully, he totally understood our destination at some point this afternoon and kept saying that ’cause he knew it would crack me up.  He’s one funny dude.


In other news, Greg and I are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary today.

(Sidenote:  Please be courteous and don’t notice that my stupid forehead zit is still there.  Gosh darn it!  Am I 37 or 17?  This is getting ridiculous.)

I’m here to say, marriage has not (how many times can I repeat not without overdoing it?) been an easy road for us all the time.  There have been moments when we’ve hung on using a crazy combination of divine intervention, stubbornness, willpower and guts.

I’m so glad we did.

Because there’ve also been moments like the one a couple of weeks ago when we were driving in the car and hatching the Craziest Family Vacation of all time.

And the times we’ve become parents together in Vietnam and Guatemala and in a Stateside operating room with premature babies.

And the time we couldn’t go to that Broadway show for my birthday ’cause we were home with a sick kid so Greg bought me beautiful earrings we couldn’t afford.

And the time we were in that huge, tiled shower in Mexico…

but I digress.

Happy Anniversary, Greg.

Thanks for sticking it out.

Here’s to more fine memories.

I love you.


Best Thing / Worst Thing

Jan 13 2011

I made it home today traveling stand-by with three kiddos.  Yay, us!  I wish I had pictures of the event, but my hands were literally too full for a camera.  I think I managed four shots, all of them poor.

So, instead of the blow-by-blow of how we did it (snacks, songs, cajoling and bribery all played their parts), I’ll take a step back.

At dinner every night with the kids, we ask them to tell us:

What was your best thing today?  What was your worst thing?

As my time with my little ones draws to a close on the first leg of our marathon vacation, I’ve been reflecting on my best thing and my worst thing.

I’ll start with the worst.  (Eat your broccoli first and save the yummy stuff for the last taste, right?)

It’s the worst that I always, always, always forget until the last minute that I wanted to be in some vacation pictures.

On this trip, other than the picture when I misguidedly attempted to document what it’s like to jam 3 kids and 1 adult on a ride that traditionally seats 2 people,

and this photo featuring one of my hands,

I completely forgot.


Until, that is, we were on the tram our last afternoon at the park.

As soon as I snapped this pic of Greg and Cael,

I asked Greg to take some pictures of me with the kids just to prove I went on the trip.

By “asked” I mean that I shoved the camera at him and frantically started issuing photo-taking orders.  He is such a good sport.

All I wanted was one good shot of my little kids and me.

Was that too much to ask of my exhausted children on a moving tram in the two and 1/2 minutes before we arrived at the parking structure? I think not.

Of 10 attempts (see what I mean by good sport?), Greg got these:

1. Cai = enthusiasm incarnate:

2. Cai, still enthusiastic.  Aden and Cael, without eyes.  And did the sun vanish behind a cloud for just this one dark shot?

3. OK, now I’m starting to lose enthusiasm for this project.  This picture does, however, nicely cut off the forehead zit that you can see poking out from underneath my hat in Photo #1.

4. Cai’s starting to regain his interest.

5.  Aaaand, with who knows what word about to come out of Cai’s mouth, I quit.

That’s it, ladies and gentlemen.  My best personal portraits on Little Kids’ Trip 2011.

Except for my favorite, taken a few minutes later in the parking garage:

It’s a bad picture with terrible lighting.  There’s no ambiance, and there’s nothing to catch your interest.

But somewhere between carrying twin boys, my red eyes, Cai’s blurred out face, and Cael clinging with all his might to my left breast cup, this is the photo that best tells the story of the trip.

Because even though we’re all tired and a little worse for the wear, the experience didn’t happen on Disney rides or even with the Mouse himself.  It happened in parking garages and on planes.  It happened in snazzy hotel pools with awesome towels.  It happened in the back seat of the car having to share space with siblings.

The experience happened in being together.

My best thing?

We’re still smiling!

Now I’m off to finish 6 loads of laundry so we can start the whole thing over again tomorrow.